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Volleyball: Lobos finally back home for a little while

At long last a homestand.

The road-weary University of New Mexico volleyball team plays the first of two straight home matches Thursday night when the Lobos face Boise State. If playing two straight at Dreamstyle Arena – the Pit doesn’t necessarily sound like much of a homestand, consider the road UNM has traveled this season.

Coming off last week’s swing to Fresno State and San Diego State, the Lobos (5-11, 0-4 Mountain West) have played 15 of their 16 matches away from home. Even upbeat first-year coach Jon Newman-Gonchar won’t try to put too positive a spin on that.

“We’ve spent 25 of the last 40 days on the road,” he said. “Fatigue is coming, and we’re feeling a little beat up right now.”

Nor has the early part of UNM’s Mountain West schedule been kind, with visits to nationally ranked Colorado State and a difficult California swing coming in the first two weeks. The Lobos also dropped their lone home match in a five-set heartbreaker (17-15 in set five) to Wyoming.

“Yeah, I think (the road-heavy schedule) was too much,” Newman-Gonchar said. “… At some point you can’t help saying, ‘We’re getting on a plane again? Going to a hotel again?’ The road gets long.”

Still, Newman-Gonchar and the Lobos can finally see some light at the end of the terminal. Eight of their last 14 matches will be played at home, and Newman-Gonchar believes his team is headed in the right direction.

“This team is getting better,” he said. “We’ve been so dang close so many times. It’s frustrating but I think our minds are in a good place. We’ve got plenty of time left to do what we want to do, which is to be playing our best volleyball at the end of the season.”

UNM is hoping to get some help from the home fans with a pair of promotions this week. Thursday’s match against Boise State (11-4, 4-1) is the annual Lobos Love Pink match. Fans wearing pink will be admitted for $3. Saturday’s 1 p.m. match against Utah State (1-15, 1-3) is Pack the Pit day with $2 general admission.

Senior outside hitters Lauren Twitty and Tai Bierria lead the Lobos in kills with 187 and 151, respectively. Sophomore middle blocker Rachel Murphy has 70 kills and a team-best 62 total blocks, while freshman Alena Moldan leads UNM with 233 digs. Outside hitter Janell Walley (196 kills, 155 digs) has been Boise State’s top producer.

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